|Foundations of Early Childhood Education Professor A. Webber
Barbara Riker 3/23/05
This paper will define Inclusion and discuss its history in regard to federal laws designed to give every child an equal education regardless of their disability. It will also discuss some of the benefits of early inclusion for children who have disabilities. I chose this subject because I am interested both personally and professionally in all areas of developmental disabilities. Professionally, I have been an administrator for a not for profit organization that provides services for adults and children with developmental disabilities. In the years that I have been involved in this field I have gained a great deal of knowledge as well as become very close to many families that I have had the privilege of serving. Although in the past I have been involved mainly with adults, I would like to learn more about children, and their opportunities for education, in order to become a more knowledgeable advocate and to make a difference in their lives. Personally it is important to me because my 12 year old daughter has a learning disability. Since the second grade she has been receiving academic intervention services as a pull out program in a general education setting. She has in the past few years become more aware of how she is different from other children. She has had many negative experiences with both her peers and with some teachers that has left her feeling like there is something wrong with her because of the different way she processes information as opposed to how other children her age learn. I believe my daughter and all children would benefit greatly from inclusion classrooms where regardless of their ability, or style of learning, children are educated together in the same classroom and treated equally. I hope someday that we as a society will learn to embrace all of our differences instead of separating everyone into different groups.
The resources I selected came from many different places. I used the knowledge I have acquired throughout the years, as both a parent of a child with a learning disability and as an administrator in the field of developmental disabilities. I have also spoken with a Director of Family Support Services devoted to helping children with disabilities as well as a school psychologist, to gain some insight on the process of evaluating a child in order to receive the necessary services. To gain a better understanding of the rights of children, I have researched the history of Federal Laws for the Education of Learners Who Are Exceptional, which I found on the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities’ (OMRDD) website. Finally, I have also used 2 articles from the Council for Exceptional Children website (http://www.cec.sped.org). The first one is entitled “The Impact of Inclusion on Language Development and Social Competence among Preschoolers with Disabilities.” This article examined the progress of preschoolers in both inclusion classrooms as well as in segregated classrooms. It focused on auditory comprehension, expressive language and on social skills and problem behaviors. The second article is entitled “After Preschool Inclusion: Children’s Educational Pathways over the Early School Years.” The study examined the effects of children moving from inclusive preschool classrooms into elementary school settings. I chose these articles because I believe that the educational benefits of inclusion are so much greater when started early in a child’s life and that they will continue to make great strides if they are given these opportunities throughout their entire education
To begin with, Inclusion, in regard to education, and for the purpose of this paper is defined as providing an educational environment where children with disabilities are members of the same classroom as their typically developing peers and receive the necessary supports and services within that classroom to accomplish the goals established for them. These goals are established by a team of professionals such as the teacher, principal, school psychologist, speech or occupational therapists, etc., as well as the child’s parents or caregivers. This differs from Mainstreaming, which is still viewed by some as the same as Inclusion. Mainstreaming is different in that it is a practice that removes children from their special education classes for part of the day and places them in general education classes but without the benefit of instructional modification or the necessary support services. Integration, another practice often confused with Inclusion, brought children with disabilities into general education settings but these children did not share activities with their typically developing peers and were often seen as outsiders.
In understanding Inclusion more effectively, it is important to know the history behind the Federal laws that were designed to benefit children with disabilities. In 1975, congress enacted Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA), and provided the funding to help implement this act. Known as the Mainstreaming Law, EAHCA required that students between the ages of 5 and 18 with disabilities be given free, and appropriate public education (FAPE) This meant that the student and his or her family are not required to pay for any necessary special education or related supportive and adaptive services.An Individualized Education Plan or IEP was also required in order for the student to receive services. An IEP is a written statement that spells out a program specifically tailored for the student with a disability. It should be related to the child’s learning capacity and constructed to meet the child’s individual needs, and designed to provide educational benefits. This act also first defined the Least Restricted Environment (LRE), This means a setting that is as similar as possible to the one in which children with out disabilities are typically educated In 1986 this act was amended and required that children ages 3-5 be given free and appropriate education and also established the early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities. In 1990, the EAHCA, was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Act or IDEA. The IDEA broadened the EAHCA and mandated specific services for all children with disabilities. It established the “people first” language for referring to people with disabilities. For children it meant that we view them as children first and foremost, and then as children who may have special needs such as support or adaptations for learning Through the IDEA, children who are thought to have a disability are evaluated for eligibility for services, as well as to provide them with the appropriate services they will need to enhance their educational experiences. Parents must be invited to participate in this evaluation process, and it is revisited yearly or at least every three years to ensure that the services continue to be what the child needs. In 1997 amendments were made to the IDEA. One involved positive behavioral support. This focused on considering the unique and individualized cultural learning histories of children, like social, community, historical, and gender. This support positively emphasized desirable behaviors rather than punishing undesirable behaviors. The other involves functional behavioral assessment determining what purpose the behavior serves, what are the triggers of the behavior as well as the setting in which the behaviors occur. This helps in guiding positive interventions that are both relevant and effective for each child individually.
As noted earlier in this paper, under the IDEA, a child with a disability must be educated in the least restricted environment (LRE). This has set the stage for the legal basis for Inclusion. Originally called mainstreaming, and now replaced with the term Inclusion, this allows the child with special needs to be educated full time in a general education classroom, with the added supports and services that they need following them into the classroom. Although these efforts are costly and time consuming, the LRE compels schools to examine possible modifications like specialized training for classroom teachers to better meet the needs of all children. Many studies focusing on Inclusion have shown positive effects for children with disabilities. On the preschool level, studies have shown that early integration with typically developing children was either comparable or more beneficial than segregation for children. They suggested that children in Inclusion settings developed at a faster rate than children in segregated classes. Some studies also suggest that social interaction and competence was also enhanced in an Inclusion setting. Studies also have been done on children in the early elementary school years that have previously been in an inclusive preschool program. These studies seem to show benefits as well. When the proper supports and services were provided in these early elementary classrooms, there seems to be an overall outcome that in many cases can support the notion that early inclusion is beneficial. Research also shows that the benefits of inclusion go far beyond academics. This is particularly important for young children who learn best when they feel safe, secure and cared for in their environment.
In doing this research I have gained a greater understanding of the idea of Inclusion. I would like to learn more about how it affects children as they progress into their later years of education. I would try to find out these answers by talking with teachers, administrators, parents and also children themselves to learn more about the benefits of inclusion in all aspects of education. In my position as an advocate for all children and adults with disabilities, I can use this information to help educate parents, and future teachers on the positive aspects of Inclusion. Overall I think that Inclusion has been underutilized, and more often not considered due to the lack of support services for these children when they enter the general education setting. The idea itself in my opinion is a very good one and one that needs to be implemented more often. It does however need to be funded better, implemented properly, and teachers, as well as school administrators need to be prepared in a way that supports the all of the children regardless of their differences.
Council for Exceptional Children website (http://www.cec.sped.org).
“The Impact of Inclusion on Language Development and Social Competence Among Preschoolers with Disabilities.”
“After Preschool Inclusion: Children’s Educational Pathways over the Early School Years.”
Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities website
IDEA, EAHCA laws
Joy O’Shaughnessy, Director of Family Support Services,
East End Disability Associates, Inc.